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Going Down the Rabbit Hole... Starting Point

GlobalKSP

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I've always been a fan of music and have always paid "just a little extra" for better audio quality. For example, a bit better headphone (Koss Porta Pros for a long time, Sony WH-1000MX3's now). A bit better car audio (currently a Nakamichi head unit with stock speakers). A bit better home audio (Sansui QRX-6500 + SR-535 TT + SP 150's). A bit better streaming service (Spotify premium). I've leaned toward vintage not for the audio quality, but for the subjective quality of aesthetic and "warmth", which, I feel is also aesthetic.

And now my good buddy has turned me onto (and shared, love him) Tidal HiFi and the world of DACs, open back/closed back headphones, etc.

Considering I "can't afford" this, have a look at the current listening setups and toss in your suggestions on how to step up the audio quality, incrementally, and on a budget. I'm doing my own research down this rabbit hole and have come up with some ideas myself, but will share them later.

A note on room listening... our home is small and wood paneled (think log cabin meets tree house and has baby in 1972 in Laurel Canyon) and the speakers are WAY too big for the space and thus are not placed properly to give decent staging. They're sitting on the floor, with the receiver on top of them, and the TT on top of that. :facepalm:
A credenza is in the works next month and the stereo will move rooms so...again... :facepalm:

Many thanks!

Headphone listening:
Pretty sure none of this matters as the Sony's are powered.

Sony WH-1000MX3 <== [corded] <== [iPhone SE2020] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]
Sony WH-1000MX3 <== [Bluetooth] <== [iPhone SE2020] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]
Sony WH-1000MX3 <== [Bluetooth] <== [MacBook Pro 2012] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]
Sony WH-1000MX3 <== [corded] <== [MacBook Pro 2012] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]

Room listening:

Sansui SP-150's <== Sansui QRX-6500 <== [Sansui SR-535 TT] + [Pickering XSV3000]
Sansui SP-150's <== Sansui QRX-6500 <== [3.5mm to RCA] <== [MacBook Pro 2012] / [iPhone SE2020] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]
Sansui SP-150's <== Sansui QRX-6500 <== [3.5mm to RCA] <== [Apple Airport Express] <== [WiFi] <== [MacBook Pro 2012] / [iPhone SE2020] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]

My thoughts are...

New headphones (Akg k371, Beyer dt770, Sennheiser HD560S) + a DAC (iFi Hip DAC, FiiO K5, ?) that could be used both on the go and for the home system.

Your thoughts are... ?
 

acbarn

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I've always been a fan of music and have always paid "just a little extra" for better audio quality. For example, a bit better headphone (Koss Porta Pros for a long time, Sony WH-1000MX3's now). A bit better car audio (currently a Nakamichi head unit with stock speakers). A bit better home audio (Sansui QRX-6500 + SR-535 TT + SP 150's). A bit better streaming service (Spotify premium). I've leaned toward vintage not for the audio quality, but for the subjective quality of aesthetic and "warmth", which, I feel is also aesthetic.

And now my good buddy has turned me onto (and shared, love him) Tidal HiFi and the world of DACs, open back/closed back headphones, etc.

Considering I "can't afford" this, have a look at the current listening setups and toss in your suggestions on how to step up the audio quality, incrementally, and on a budget. I'm doing my own research down this rabbit hole and have come up with some ideas myself, but will share them later.

A note on room listening... our home is small and wood paneled (think log cabin meets tree house and has baby in 1972 in Laurel Canyon) and the speakers are WAY too big for the space and thus are not placed properly to give decent staging. They're sitting on the floor, with the receiver on top of them, and the TT on top of that. :facepalm:
A credenza is in the works next month and the stereo will move rooms so...again... :facepalm:

Many thanks!

Headphone listening:
Pretty sure none of this matters as the Sony's are powered.

Sony WH-1000MX3 <== [corded] <== [iPhone SE2020] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]
Sony WH-1000MX3 <== [Bluetooth] <== [iPhone SE2020] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]
Sony WH-1000MX3 <== [Bluetooth] <== [MacBook Pro 2012] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]
Sony WH-1000MX3 <== [corded] <== [MacBook Pro 2012] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]

Room listening:

Sansui SP-150's <== Sansui QRX-6500 <== [Sansui SR-535 TT] + [Pickering XSV3000]
Sansui SP-150's <== Sansui QRX-6500 <== [3.5mm to RCA] <== [MacBook Pro 2012] / [iPhone SE2020] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]
Sansui SP-150's <== Sansui QRX-6500 <== [3.5mm to RCA] <== [Apple Airport Express] <== [WiFi] <== [MacBook Pro 2012] / [iPhone SE2020] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]

My thoughts are...

New headphones (Akg k371, Beyer dt770, Sennheiser HD560S) + a DAC (iFi Hip DAC, FiiO K5, ?) that could be used both on the go and for the home system.

Your thoughts are... ?

A nice set of wired open back headphones would be a big upgrade, perhaps the Sennheiser/Drop HD6XX, which are sort of the de facto entry-level audiophile headphones. I'd also suggest a desktop amp/dac combo for at home (JDS Labs Element II, Topping DX3 Pro, SMSL M500, etc.), and an Apple Lightning to 3.5mm adaptor for on the go. DACs like the iFi and FiiO are a pain in the neck to carry around.
 
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GlobalKSP

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A nice set of wired open back headphones would be a big upgrade, perhaps the Sennheiser/Drop HD6XX, which are sort of the de facto entry-level audiophile headphones. I'd also suggest a desktop amp/dac combo for at home (JDS Labs Element II, Topping DX3 Pro, SMSL M500, etc.), and an Apple Lightning to 3.5mm adaptor for on the go. DACs like the iFi and FiiO are a pain in the neck to carry around.
Thanks for the suggestions!
 
OP
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GlobalKSP

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As an addendum to my initial post...

I've been AB testing Tidal vs Spotify Premium with the setups listed above and I can't tell a difference. At all. Is it that the equipment isn't up to snuff to hear the difference? Or, has years behind a drum kit as a kid ruined my ears? Or, is it perhaps something else?
 

acbarn

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As an addendum to my initial post...

I've been AB testing Tidal vs Spotify Premium with the setups listed above and I can't tell a difference. At all. Is it that the equipment isn't up to snuff to hear the difference? Or, has years behind a drum kit as a kid ruined my ears? Or, is it perhaps something else?
I wouldn’t expect you to hear a difference. Most people can’t hear the difference between 320 kbps Ogg Vorbis (Spotify Premium) and 16/44.1 FLAC (Tidal, Qobuz CD quality) when tested blind. If you get into this further, I think what you may find is that much of what audiophiles believe they hear is in their imagination (expectation bias). If you’re interested, you can read more about expectation bias here: http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/search?...:00-07:00&max-results=1&start=1&by-date=false
 
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GlobalKSP

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I wouldn’t expect you to hear a difference. Most people can’t hear the difference between 320 kbps Ogg Vorbis (Spotify Premium) and 16/44.1 FLAC (Tidal, Qobuz CD quality) when tested blind. If you get into this further, I think what you may find is that much of what audiophiles believe they hear is in their imagination (expectation bias). If you’re interested, you can read more about expectation bias here: http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/search?...:00-07:00&max-results=1&start=1&by-date=false
Oh, this is right up my alley! Thanks for the link!
 

M00ndancer

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My thoughts are...

New headphones (Akg k371, Beyer dt770, Sennheiser HD560S) + a DAC (iFi Hip DAC, FiiO K5, ?) that could be used both on the go and for the home system.

Your thoughts are... ?

Question first: Budget?

You have a few options:

A different pair of headphones. Open back sounds different than closed back. This is your most important choice.
DAC/AMP doesn't really matter if you have power enough.

Choose the cheapest streaming solution.
(Small differences if any in SQ. Best case different master recordings.)

For closed back:
Sony WH-1000MX3 <== [corded]
Bluetooth works too. Just make sure you get the correct codec (AAC).

Interesting closed back choices:

Cooler Master MH752 USB

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x

Get a good pair of open back headphones:
if possible go a store or get ones that you can return.

Check rTings.com and here for reviews.

Philips Fidelio X2HR

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

Philips SHP9500

Sennheiser HD 560S

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO

No need for another DAC.

If you need a good volume control for desktop use and perhaps more power choose one of these:

Schiit Magni 3+ and Heresy

Monoprice Liquid Spark

Topping A30 and Schiit Magni 3

JDS Labs EL AMP II

Sansui SP-150's <== Sansui QRX-6500 <== [Sansui SR-535 TT] + [Pickering XSV3000]
Sansui SP-150's <== Sansui QRX-6500 <== [3.5mm to RCA] <== [MacBook Pro 2012] / [iPhone SE2020] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]
Sansui SP-150's <== Sansui QRX-6500 <== [3.5mm to RCA] <== [Apple Airport Express] <== [WiFi] <== [MacBook Pro 2012] / [iPhone SE2020] <== [Tidal HiFi] / [Spotify Premium]

Keep the vintage gear and perhaps get a pair of active speakers.
I've leaned toward vintage not for the audio quality, but for the subjective quality of aesthetic and "warmth", which, I feel is also aesthetic.

Use EQ settings on your Sansui QRX-6500, phone or computer.
 
OP
G

GlobalKSP

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Joined
Dec 31, 2020
Messages
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Location
Los Angeles, CA
Question first: Budget?

You have a few options:

A different pair of headphones. Open back sounds different than closed back. This is your most important choice.
DAC/AMP doesn't really matter if you have power enough.

Choose the cheapest streaming solution.
(Small differences if any in SQ. Best case different master recordings.)

For closed back:
Sony WH-1000MX3 <== [corded]
Bluetooth works too. Just make sure you get the correct codec (AAC).

Interesting closed back choices:

Cooler Master MH752 USB

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x

Get a good pair of open back headphones:
if possible go a store or get ones that you can return.

Check rTings.com and here for reviews.

Philips Fidelio X2HR

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

Philips SHP9500

Sennheiser HD 560S

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO

No need for another DAC.

If you need a good volume control for desktop use and perhaps more power choose one of these:

Schiit Magni 3+ and Heresy

Monoprice Liquid Spark

Topping A30 and Schiit Magni 3

JDS Labs EL AMP II



Keep the vintage gear and perhaps get a pair of active speakers.


Use EQ settings on your Sansui QRX-6500, phone or computer.

I’ll respond at length later, but... gold star. Thank you.
 

M00ndancer

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M00ndancer

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Forget the toys and get better speakers ASAP
Might want to do both?
Not everyone can use speakers all the time:

A note on room listening... our home is small and wood paneled (think log cabin meets tree house and has baby in 1972 in Laurel Canyon) and the speakers are WAY too big for the space and thus are not placed properly to give decent staging. They're sitting on the floor, with the receiver on top of them, and the TT on top of that. :facepalm:
A credenza is in the works next month and the stereo will move rooms so...again...
 

Beershaun

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Welcome to the forum. I encourage you to look at the Index's @amirm has built for speakers, DACs, and amplifiers to see his rankings and recommendations. the big surprise to me is Brand and Price don't often correlate to engineering quality and performance. These will help you narrow down your search knowing that you are choosing from items that are properly engineered.

In his Electronics index ranking pick something in the top quartile: (Blue range) that fits your feature needs and price.
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?pages/Audio_Equipment_Reviews/

In the speaker index Attribute Comparision tab look at your price range, then pick speaker options that have the highest preference ranking and are recommended (green triangle pointing up).
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?pages/SpeakerTestData/
 
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